Two Tales Of Wales (Part One)

IMG_5737Our Knaus Sport Traveller motorhome has at last been liberated from its winter hibernation; batteries have been charged; interior aired; fridge cleaned; mosses and lichens eased gently from their various toeholds around the exterior trim and a liberal coating of Bobby Dazzler applied to the bodywork.

And so we head for Wales – where we have accidentally added a second Satnav Knumpty-induced near-disaster to our Portfolio of Unfortunate Pioneering Experiences – which only seem to befall us amidst the spectacular and easily accessible scenic beauty of the Welsh countryside.

Our first Unfortunate Experience has already been verbally retold many times since it occurred soon after acquiring our Knumpty Van three winters ago and – as such – that particular adventure will hopefully form Part Two, coming to a Knumptytravel blog near you sometime soon.

Part One, being far fresher in the memory, consists of  the innocent use of one of the many online site-location apps upon which we of the Knumptying fraternity draw from time-to-time to find  suitable overnight stops when none have been pre-planned.

So it was, that after a successful day’s trout-fishing in bright spring sunshine on Gwernan Lake near Dolgellau, we opted to head for a hotel/pub-stop on the shores of Tal-y-llyn Lake just seven kilometres away, on the opposite side of Cadair Idris. The clocks having sprung forward, and with the last rays of sunshine flecking the roadside verges with tiny splashes of cadmium yellow daffodils, we set off with the romanticised notion of parking up for the night at a lakeside tavern – to enjoy welcoming log fires, a pint or two in a thronged and amiable bar and perhaps a warming bowl of home-cooked pub food.

By the time we reached the head of the lake, darkness was more-or-less upon us – and with satnav continuing to gamely guide us, we headed off the main carriageway onto a minor road across which we were soon to encounter a gate, closed against us but not padlocked and assumedly designed only to retain roaming sheep. Through it we therefore passed, continuing along the single lane tarmacked track which hugged the side of the lake.

Driven on by our notion of welcoming hospitality, we thought little of the next gates which again were easily opened – although the road surface was beginning to degrade and the width reducing so our wheels were only just continuing to touch tarmac.

Almost imperceptibly (and in direct proportion to the ever-increasing tufts of grass which were springing into existence down the centre of the road) our expectations about our destination began to dwindle. Overhanging trees began to scrape the roof and sides of the van and out of the darkness there emerged a large and wholly dilapidated farmhouse. How on earth, we asked ourselves, could a Hotel out here be practicably serviced via such difficult access – and , if it was indeed to fulfil our expectations, why was there no other traffic sharing our single-tracked and single-minded odessey?

More gates. Another deserted barn. The lakeside lapping perilously close a couple of feet below our trundling offside wheels. Satnav still upheld a tiny, chequered, flickering flag of hope just half-a-mile further on (and we couldn’t have turned round to save our lives anyway) so onward we trundled, now not only stopping to open gates but also to hold the larger tree  branches out of our way.

In the far distance, car headlights swept along the main road on the opposite lake-shore, highlighting our creeping sense of isolation as, at walking pace, we ‘arrived at our destination’: a boarded-up, neglected, stone-walled and wholly inhospitable bungalow which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a murder-mystery film-set.

Perhaps recognising our worried  displeasure, satnav then teasingly revealed that our only choice of onward route re-joined the safety of the main road a half-mile further on, so with increasing trepidation fuelled by a glimmer of hope, we crawled on, main-beam headlights carving eerie shapes and throwing shadows into the moss-draped woodland which surrounded us.

At last, there, just beyond the headlamp reach, we can just make out a final gate fronted by a grass verge, beyond which traffic passed unimpeded on the main lake road. However, between us and salvation lay one more challenge – a fast-flowing river fording the now crumbled track. Unbelieving that we had come so far to encounter this potential impassability, we did the only thing we could have done; clambered out of the van and waded the ford with tentative steps while darkened water swirled ankle-deep around our feet, which thankfully were finding firm foothold on a stable and solid concrete surface beneath.

OK – back in the van; deep breaths; slip the clutch and sail into the water-filled dip; keep the speed up as mountain-chilled Welsh water swirled around our wheels and beware of the track cranking tight left at the top of the stone-walled exit ramp.

Ha-ha! Through and out the other side! One gate left. If it’s padlocked, we’re ramming it, but thankfully it unlatches at our touch and was just about draggable open through the tangling verge grass where – illuminated in the headlights – the faded, overgrown and long-forgotten paint of Give Way lines emerged  – allowing us to return, slightly scratched, scathed but hugely relieved and triumphant – to reconnect with civilisation as represented by the solid and well-maintained tarmac of the B4405.

Uplifted by a sense of triumph-over-adversity liberally shaken (not stirred) with great relief, we speedily retraced our route back along the correct side of the lake, only pausing open-mouthed to realise that the Hotel we had originally sought was lurking – unlit and clearly closed – at the junction of main road and gated lane down which we had just travelled.

Pulling up here, we placed the telephone call we really should have made before setting off, to awaken a slightly disgruntled Hotel landlord who was willing to open his door (in his dressing gown at 9pm?) just long enough to take a £10.00 overnight ‘parking’ fee from us while suggesting we turn up at nine in the morning when he’d be happy to sell us a great cooked breakfast!

Negotiations concluded, we returned to the van for a nerve-settling and well-deserved nightcap before settling down for the most expensive overnight ‘wild camping’ we’d ever enjoyed.

Shout ‘Hurrah’ then, for Satnav, Stupidity and Knumptydom.

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